Celebrating Boston Red Sox baseball great Carl Yastrzemski.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


The number "8" has a rich heritage. Many choose it as their favorite numeral. Perhaps it's the elegant shape of the thing.

Eight wears a lot of meanings, some of them conflicting. It's a lucky number in China, but if you're "behind the eight ball" here, you're in trouble.

Because the figure eight is a loop, the number is sometimes used as a code word for crazy, as in loopy, and a "Section 8" in the army is a discharge for being mentally unfit. However, in Tarot, card No. 8 means "strength," and when laid down on its side, the number 8 represents "infinity" in the world of physics. Chess, with its eight pawns and eight-by-eight squares on the board, is widely regarded as the ultimate game.

The numeral 8 was originally written in ancient India in the shape of an H, which happens to be the eighth letter of our alphabet.

The word for eight comes from the Greek and Latin root "octo," prompting one to ask why then is October the tenth month of the year? It used to be the eighth month in the Roman calendar, but got moved when we changed to the Gregorian calendar. The root is otherwise in tact: An octagon has eight sides and octopus eight tentacles. An octave is more complicated.

Some other random "8" facts:

--We recognize eight planets, after Pluto was removed from that status in 2006.

--Eight is the atomic number for oxygen.

--A cup contains eight fluid ounces, a gallon eight pints and a mile eight furlongs.

--Yogi Berra, Cal Ripken, Carl Yastrzemski and Kobe Bryant all wore it.

As for the past, all kinds of exciting things happened in '08 years:

The New Year's ball first dropped in Times Square exactly 100 years ago. In 1808, the United States banned the importation of slaves, even though their emancipation would not take place for another 55 years. In 1708, Queen Anne becomes the last English monarch to veto an Act of Parliament. In 1608, Jamestown burned to the ground, a year after its founding. In 1508, Michelangelo began painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Beyond that, reliable dates are a little sketchy.


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